Prawn noodles worth shelling out for
If you have always wondered why the Chinese here eat some items and shun others for their Chinese New Year feasts, it is not a big secret.
Unlike the northern Chinese folks who celebrate with dumplings, noodles and lamb hot pot, it is a different story here.
To put it simply, Chinese New Year is about eating what sounds (in Mandarin and Cantonese ) and feels good.
For example, we eat fish (yu) for a smooth sailing year ahead, vegetables (cai) for luck, glutinous rice cakes (nian gao) for a better life, black moss fungus (fa cai) for prosperity, dried oysters (ho si) for good tidings, bak kwa (long yoke) for robustness and pineapple tarts (ong lai tar) to welcome the gods.
To take it a step further, some even put together the three emotions that supposedly form true happiness - dried oysters, black moss fungus and mushrooms (tung koo, for sorrow) - in one dish.
Then, there are prawns, which in Cantonese (ha) sounds like a good laugh and is taken to mean happiness. So, here is a big "ha" for you to usher in the Chinese New Year.
The first review about this prawn noodle stall, which I read on the Internet, was by a competitor - Ms Rui Fang of Whampoa 545 Prawn Noodles in Tekka Market. She shared a post about Sumo Big Prawn Noodle on her Facebook page a few months back, and it went viral.
So the crowds came. But to me, it meant avoiding the stall until the hype had died down.
Now, the queues are more forgiving, especially since I visited at 11am.
The main lure has to be the giant prawns, crayfish and lobsters that sit atop the wide-rimmed ramen-style bowls (the crustaceans would not be able to fit into a normal-size bowl).
They looked impressive, which accounted for the online frenzy.
I ordered the $8 option, which came with clams and three massive thumb-to-index-finger sized prawns.
I slurped the soup as the first litmus test. The cloudy broth had a sweetness that came from the clams, and it was nice.
But old-school palates like mine yearned for that clear and roasted shrimp shell stock, which has been simmered with fried shallots and sharpened with the umami of a good soy sauce.
Then the $24.90 whole lobster version with giant shrimps and clams came.
How could one not like this? The portion was generous, and it was satisfying.
So, to owners Desmond and Jerry Neo, laugh on and be happy, all the way to the bank, if need be.
And may a delightful Year of the Fire Rooster warm all our readers' hearts and spirits. Gong xi fa cai.
Sumo Big Prawn Noodles
Block 628, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, #01-72
9am-9pm, closed on Mondays
KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.